John Robinson sat at the kitchen table in front of the wood fireplace and wished he had a scotch. Oh, he could have one if he really wanted. He was staring at the bottle in its cardboard case, sitting at the top of the liquor cabinet. No one would say a single word to him if he poured himself a little into one of the tumblers and ‘partook,’ as his Daddy used to put it. But, as far as anyone knew, no one was making scotch anymore. And if they were it wasn’t getting to the Biddies. He had to be choosy about scotch. Everyone had to be choosy about everything, really.
Vinnie glanced at the gold and silver clock face hanging above the doors to the ballroom. It had been exactly an hour and twenty-three minutes since he had found Joey on the upper floor of that shut-down factory. Give or take a few seconds. And now, eighty-three minutes later, here he was in a nice suit and a touch of cologne, Smile draped on his arm like they had known each other for years, walking into the ballroom and trying to seem like it was a normal event for him. Not the first time he’d ever worn a suit off stage. Not the first time he’d ever been in any kind of room this nice, with people dressed in such furs and jewelry. You could just about smell the diamonds.
She sat on the train and twiddled her thumbs and tried not to let the rhythm of the wheels on the rails make her fall asleep. When she came close, she would rub her tongue against the roof of her mouth, shift in her seat, button or unbutton her coat, depending on how it was. Once, she had gone up to the dining car and gotten a cup of tea. It still sat in the little cup holder, now nothing more than cold gray water.
Just a little ways from the shore the waves were blue monstrosities, towering higher than she knew waves could go. They foamed and curled and crashed and then the water came rushing at the white sand, flowing over it, reaching her toes and tickling them just so before retreating back to Mother Ocean. In between the waves – so big they must be dreams! – she could see the horizon, a straight line stretching all the way from one direction to the other. Blue meets blue.
On the corner of Astoria and Sunday on the ridge above Broken Hearts were four Victorian homes. In happier times this was referred to in the town as the Biddies’ Corner, known for the four old women who had lived there and spent much of their lives together in one house or another, playing bunko and drinking gin. Not a one of them had survived, although the word had been Mrs. Rockby had tossed herself down the cellar stairs before the disease could get her.
This was, easily, the weirdest first day on the job he’d ever had. Including the water park, and that first day had ended with three paramedics and a small fire. At least when he’d shown up the location had seen normal. Parking lot away from the customers, locker room, other college kids either eager or over it. The address he had walked to from the train was a factory with some old logo fading off the brick, surrounded by other factories in varying levels of disrepair.
The little town of Broken Hearts in the mountains of Colorado looked very pretty. All of the lights were off, of course, and there were no cars parked along the side of Main Street. But the street and the sidewalks had been shoveled and salted. The trees that lined the street had been trimmed. Most of the windows of the shops and cafes and the bank weren’t just intact, they were clean and decorated for Christmas. The few windows that had been broken had been neatly replaced with large sheets of plywood. It looked like a charming, functional hamlet, and the man walking down the middle of Main didn’t know no one lived there at all.